What Will Be The Big Delaware Education Stories When School Starts?

This is entirely based on predictions of my own and what I have seen people post in social media.  But I think some of these will come up quite a bit in conversation!

Smarter Balanced Assessment Scores: These should be out in mid-September or later.  We will know what the true opt-out numbers are for Delaware, along with if the test was a success or if Mark Murphy’s predictions of 70% non-proficiency were on the mark.  Or maybe they were even worse.  If the scores are low, we will get the very Markellian chant of “C’mon guys, it’s only the first year.  There were some flaws, but we have our top people on it.  But it’s very important that we have this data so we can see where our greatest needs are.”  Murphy will agree, as will the State Board of Education, and the DOE, and the Delaware Business Roundtable, and so on and so on.

Charter Schools: there will be at least one major charter story involving financial abuse of taxpayer funds.  I’m just going with the trajectory here folks!  At last count, there are still six more reports coming from the State Auditor’s office, none of which involve traditional school districts, all charters.

Wilmington Redistricting/Priority Schools: This will be the hotbed of activity in Delaware education this fall.  A lot of the Red Clay Consolidated School District’s demands for this will be adequate funding.  But with the state not even giving Red Clay the promised priority school amounts, will Red Clay be willing to take a chance like this?  And will Christina, already having many financial issues, be willing to just give up all their Wilmington schools?  Will any 3rd parties enter the landscape?

Opt-out/Refuse The Test Delaware: This could go either way.  People want the General Assembly to override Markell’s veto of House Bill 50.  But they are still very angry about the veto.  Will the release of SBAC scores cause more parents to join the Refuse crowd?  And will the Refuse crowd get a bit more aggressive when the stories start about schools bullying parents?

Christina School District: Anything can happen here.  Add some board turmoil, a Superintendent review, funding cuts, teacher layoffs and whatever else comes down the pike, and this will be a cauldron of controversy.  Can the district unite and come together to blaze a new and daring path?

Delaware DOE: They are going to do something that makes people upset.  It’s what they do and it comes with the territory.  But with everything they did in the past year, will the School Accountability Report Card push districts to the edge?

Rodel/Vision 2099/etc.: They will announce a brand new marketing push to help get the students of Delaware where they need to be in the next ten years.  For the weeks following this, we will hear numerous people saying “didn’t they just do this last year?”

ESEA Reauthorization: The U.S. House and Senate will come together and go back and forth adding and subtracting from a joint bill.  Will opt-out still be in play?  How much power will the US DOE lose at the end of the day?  Will the compromises not really change much at all?  And whatever happens, will President Obama even sign it?

Who Wants To Go To Rodel’s Student Success 2025 Gig Wearing “Refuse The Test” Shirts & Give Out Flyers?

Anyone game? It’s on Wednesday, September 16th at Del Tech in Dover, from 10-11:15am.  It’s free!  You have to sign up and register at http://bit.ly/studentsuccess2025launch and your ticket will be emailed to you.

studentsuccess2025

Yes, because 2012, 2015 and the original 2025 didn’t work out, we now have Student Success 2025, because ED2025 wasn’t as catchy!  I’m serious, who wants to go and hand out REFUSE THE TEST DELAWARE flyers?

Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium MOU With Delaware, Signed By Governor Markell

Thanks to deutsch29 getting the entire Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium application for Race To The Top and 15 state Memorandum of Understandings with SBAC up on her website.  This is a treasure trove of information, and I appreciate it immensely.  Below is the Delaware portion of this huge document, signed by Governor Jack Markell, then Secretary of Education for Delaware Lillian Lowery, State Board of Education President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, and Delaware DOE CFO Karen Field-Rogers.  Back in June of 2010….

Christina School District Board of Education President Minnehan Has No Knowledge Of Audit

Within the past ten minutes I also received the below email from Christina Board of Education President Harrie Ellen Minnehan regarding the suspicion of an audit with the Delaware State Auditor’s office.  Once again, there is NO audit taking place based on the article I put up a few minutes ago, but there was DEFINITELY a phone call made to the State Auditor’s office by two board members.  This gets more interesting by the minute!

To
  • Kevin Ohlandt
Kevin,

I have just returned home within the past 20 minutes after being out all day which is why I did not respond to this email earlier, so your time ultimatum was missed.  (I cannot always retrieve Outlook /Christina email on my phone so I don’t bother with it.)

I have no information (of the real/authentic or of the dangerous rumor type) about an audit.  Have not heard anything at all about that and I assume if it were legitimate  we would have been apprised.

Harrie Ellen

State Auditor’s Office Confirms No Financial Or Investigate Audit On Christina School District

Freeman Williams sent another email to me regarding the “Christina Audit” question.  There are two standard audits that are performed for every school district in the state, but as Obi-Wan Kenobi so brilliantly said, “These are not the droids you’re looking for…”

To
  • Kevin Ohlandt

Kevin,

I have some additional information for you. The State Auditor’s Office, Kathleen Davies, the Chief Administrative Auditor, responded to the following question: Are there any open audits?
Her response was that there are two current Open Audits:
1.      State of Delaware Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) – Christina School District as an Agency of the State is included in this audit.
2.      State of Delaware Fiscal Year Single Audit – Federal and Local Funds

She added that these noted are Statewide Audits that occur this time of year.

She also responded that there are no Investigations or Financial Audits involving the Christina School District.

Freeman

Freeman L  Williams, Ed. D.
Superintendent
Christina School District
600 N. Lombard St.
Wilmington, DE 19801
302-552-2661

Well, this definitely squashes an official investigation into Christina School District, but a call was made to the auditor’s office, which I’m being told is very similar to a recent comment made on here, and it did come from two board members.  The question is, what do the other five board members do about it?  While I can’t reveal the whodunit, I can say this will cause a lot of issues on the board.  If the district needed to be audited, it would have happened.  I don’t take issue with that.  Nor do I take issue with any citizen anonymously reporting to the State Auditor’s office.  What I do take issue with is two board members doing this, and not reporting it to the rest of the board, no matter what the result was.  It is not illegal, what this dynamic duo did, but it comes down to a matter of teamwork and trust.

Christina Superintendent Freeman Williams Responds To Question Of State Audit

Christina School District Superintendent Freeman Williams just sent an email to me in regards to my direct question of whether or not Christina is under investigation by the Delaware State Auditor.  Before I post his response, I have it on very good authority that the two board members did contact the Delaware DOE who in turn sent the two board members to the State Auditor’s office because any information the DOE gave the auditor’s office would be hearsay.  The two board members did proceed.

The email from Freeman Williams:

To
  • Kevin Ohlandt
  • WILLIAMS FREEMAN

An individual at the House Education Committee meeting on 6/17/15 did have direct knowledge of this information and was shocked when Kathleen Davies said no traditional school district was under investigation by the State Auditor’s office based on this knowledge.  It appears the State Auditor’s office didn’t feel the information supplied to them was enough to open an investigation.  If this was the case, than why are board members going to the State Auditor’s office with information like this?  What would they hope to gain?  The next board meeting at Christina will be VERY interesting!

DEBUNKED: Not Official Yet, But Christina School District May Be Under Investigation By State Auditor’s Office

UPDATED, 3:21pm, 7/30/15: Based on an email by Christina Superintendent Freeman Williams, Christina School District is not part of any open or official audit at this time.  Questions are being asked about how this whole information came about to begin with.

While this has not been officially released to the public, I have heard from very reliable sources that the Christina School District is under investigation by Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office.  This is what I was talking about yesterday with the two board members, because they handed the district in.  These two board members did NOT inform anyone else on the board of this decision.

I contacted Kathleen Davies with the State Auditor’s office yesterday, and she would neither confirm or deny the question.  She did state IF they were under investigation a report would be released to the public.  As well, I sent an email to Christina Superintendent Freeman Williams and Board President Harrie Ellen Minnehan, but I have yet to receive a response as of earlier today, but I did inform them both I would be going public with this information as of 1:30pm today.

The exact nature of the investigation is not yet known, but rumors of rampant spending involving car allowances, cell phones and other similar types of spending have been circulating ever since the 2nd referendum in Christina was announced earlier this year.

One source stated this information was provided by the board members to the State Auditor’s office in mid June, prior to the House Education Committee meeting on June 17th.  But at the House Education Committee meeting on June 17th, Kathleen Davies with the State Auditor’s office publicly stated there were no investigations going on with traditional school districts.  This was during the discussion of State Rep. Kim Williams charter school audit bill, House Bill 186.  However, if the call to the State Auditor’s office from the board members took place 2-3 days prior, the investigation may not have been officially opened.

How Can Title I Funds Be Distributed In Delaware School Districts And Charters?

Since I’ve been posting articles the past couple days about Title I funding from the feds, I’ve received many questions about how these funds can be allocated.  There is no simple answer as the below document from the Delaware Department of Education will show.  This must be an accountant or auditor’s worst nightmare, trying to keep up with district budgets!

In addition, the formula was definitely changed in the past couple years based on this email from the DOE:

Low Socio-Economic Status (SES)

As many of you are aware, the USDA has made changes to the School Nutrition Programs. Most recently is the introduction of Community Eligibility.

In the past, the school nutrition program meal benefit eligibility forms have been the source data for low income determination.  As you may remember, in March 2013 we told you that we would be moving to the DHSS Alternative Poverty (SNAP, TANF or Medicaid) measure for low socio economic status for 2013-14.  Over the past year, we continued to get guidance from USDA and USED regarding these programs and application to other programs.

Based on this new information, the state will move to a standardized low socio-economic status measure. The new measure is Direct Certification or Direct Cert.  This measure includes SNAP or TANF and does not include Medicaid.  We strongly believe this is the purest measure of low socio economic status.  In addition, the sharing of student level data is allowable for specific purposes.  With Medicaid, there are potential issues of HIPPA.

The new low income indicator is defined to be:
A student is Low-SES if any one of the following two indicator is yes:
o  TANF (Public assistance)
o  SNAP (Food stamp)

For purposes of eSchool, the new indicator will be named: Low-Income.  This is to distinguish from Low-SES that is used for the past four years.  A separate data column in eSchool will be created for the new indicator.  It will be co-existence with LOW-SES for the past years so that historical low-SES data will not be interrupted.

The new indicator will APPLY TO 2013-2014 DATA AND BEYOND starting from Fall 2013 DCAS reporting and all federal and state reporting including EDEN and school profiles.  We may have instances where we will do a look-back with the Direct Certification data for trend purposes.

Districts are still able to use a different measure of poverty when distributing funds and providing services to their schools.  The DDOE will not be collecting free and reduced lunch price information in the future, unless legislatively mandated to do so.  If you do collect information through another means, you will be expected to secure those data appropriately. 

We know we have reports online and published that have a different methodologies for low SES.  Our plan is to highlight the change in methodology on these reports, and to be clear on any reports to you, which method of low SES we are using or had been used.

This email was sent to school leaders on May 30th, 2014…

2015 Title I Allocations For ALL Delaware Districts And Charters

Yesterday, I wrote an article about Capital School District’s $330,000 loss in Title I funding, but the actual amount they lost was a little bit higher.  The amount they lost, the highest loss in the state, was $338,093.00.  Which school district had the biggest gain?  Which charter gets the most, and which gets NO Title I funding?  Find out here:

Yes, Charter School of Wilmington gets NO Title I federal funds.  A public school in Wilmington!  After Capital, it looks like Smyrna, Lake Forest and Seaford took pretty big hits in Title I cuts.  But nothing compares to Capital, which lost three times the second highest loss.  It doesn’t look like opt-out will cause a district to lose federal funds, when a new formula will do it all by itself.  Last year, the Feds changed the Title I formula from basing the number of students who receive “free and reduced lunch” at their school to the number of students whose families get special services from the state which accounts for an overall loss of Title I funds for the state of $600,000.

The bulk of the losses are occurring in Kent and Sussex counties, while all of the New Castle County districts saw an increase.  Does this mean poverty is increasing in New Castle and decreasing in Kent and Sussex?

Capital School District Loses $330,000 In Title I Funding

David Paulk, with the Dover Post, wrote an article in their newspaper today about how Capital School District is adjusting to the enormous $330,000 in Title I funding cuts.  The article, which does not appear on their online edition, states:

Capital School District officials are dealing with a significant cut in Title IA funding.  The cuts, highlighted in the preliminary budget in June, surprised some educators.

That is a huge amount of money in cuts, and it will affect a great deal of students.  What is the reason for this drastic cut?  It is NOT due to parent opt-outs of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  It has to do with the poverty rates set up by the United States Department of Education.  According to DOE spokesperson Alison May in the article:

“The change is mainly due to the starting allocations the districts receive for the geographic districts from the United States Department of Education, which is based on their area poverty rate,” May said. “In other words, Capital saw such a big difference because it had a lower poverty rate this year so it received fewer funds accordingly.”

I reached out to May to get more information about why Capital lost so much and if other districts were affected.  She clarified that Caesar Rodney lost a little bit as well, which the article suggested:

Capital’s allocation this year is down about $343,000; Caesar Rodney’s is down about $48,000 from last year.  Capital’s this year: $3,057,381; CR’s this year: $2,496,552. Will have to check on if any other districts had changes and get back to you on that as I don’t have those figures myself.

I checked on the Delaware DOE profiles section of their website, and statewide, low-income numbers for the state went from 37.8% in FY2014 to 35% in FY2015 which somewhat correlates to Capital’s over 10% in funding cuts.  When I looked at their specific low-income numbers, they went from 52.5% in FY14 to 48.6% in FY15.  For their enrollment figures overall, Capital went from 6,526 in FY13 to 6,695.

So what is going on in Capital?  By looking at their enrollment figures by grade from one year to the next, Capital lost a ton of students at the high school level.  In FY14, they had 601 students in 9th grade.  In FY15, they lost 157 students, cause their low-income rate to drop from 52.6% to 40.3% for those two school years.  It is customary that some students will choice out of district and go to other districts or charter schools in the area.  But there are only two charter high schools in Kent County, Positive Outcomes and Early College High School.

Positive Outcomes has been around for almost twenty years, and they have a fixed amount of seats available.  They also start in 7th grade, and most students tend to finish there once they get into high school.  But Early College High School just opened last fall, so this could account for a massive change in numbers.  Oddly enough, Capital’s special education numbers for students with disabilities from 9th grade to 10th grade went from 23.3% in FY14 to 17.9% for FY15, which is a massive change as well.  The DOE website does not show Early College High School’s enrollment figures on their website in the school profiles section.  However, their September 30th count report, which I posted last November, shows 126 students enrolled at Early College High School in 9th grade last year.  But, Early College High School shows only 9th grade for FY15, and Capital actually increased in student enrollment for 8th graders in FY14 of 475 students to 640 9th graders in FY15.  This can definitely be impacted by Campus Community School only going to 8th grade..

Title I funding is a tricky beast as I am now learning.  What could be happening is Early College High School is getting a lot of Title I students from both Capital and Campus Community while Capital retains more non Title I students.  Holy Cross, a Catholic school in Dover, only goes to 8th grade as well.  Holy Cross is tuition-based, so I would tend to doubt there would be that many Title I students in their enrollment.  Poly-tech actually lost a great deal of low-income students as well.  If anyone else can figure this out, let me know!

Two Christina School Board Members Going Rogue & Making Decisions Affecting The District WITHOUT Notifying The Rest of the Board

This story is gaining traction as the day goes on.  Apparently, two Christina board members made a HUGE decision two months ago without notifying the other members of the board.  While this HUGE decision is not illegal, unless they put it in writing under authority of the board, which I don’t think they did, and because it is not a quorum, it still shows a complete lack of protocol in a school board.  This is something that will affect the district for a LONG time.

It is obvious there are major issues going on, not only with the district, but also it’s Board of Education.  One of these board members has been known to cause issues in the past with transparency to other board members.  Power is a very addictive thing, and those who abuse it should be held responsible and all actions should be brought to light.  Especially when it involves the largest school district in the state.

This is a board of seven, not one, or two, trying to curry favor with elected officials, State Departments, and local business interests.  They need to remember what they are there for, to look out for the best interests of the district, which in essence, means the students of the district.  None of the two board member’s recent actions seem to be for the betterment of students and the stability of the district.  Especially since what they did happened almost two months ago and no one else knew about it…until now…

What The Hell Is Going On With Christina School District?

In response to my reblog of a post on Kilroy’s Delaware, someone made a comment on my side of things, and it is very damning to Christina School District.  Meanwhile there are multiple accusations flying all over the place regarding a potential mole on Christina’s board.

I don’t understand. Is this meeting called by the school board or Markell? Is Kilroy saying Markell has minions on the Christina school board who will do his bidding to force Dr. Williams out?

As a CSD resident and parent, I don’t think that it is wrong to evaluate Williams’ competency and ability to lead the district. My question would be, why has it taken this long? Under his watch we have seen an increase in unnecessary spending that has created an environment of financial instability.

I know, I know, cost of running the district have gone up and monies coming in have remained flat. I get that, and I accept it, but Dr. Williams and his henchman, Bob Silber, have known this for the last three years! They have seen this coming, yet they chose to give car allowances to top level district employees…..BMW, Mercedes and Lexus vehicles being paid for with MY tax dollars. Cell phones for hundreds of district employees paid for with MY tax dollars. Travel reimbursement for regular job travel, meaning these people knew they’d be driving a lot when they took their positions, amounts that register in the thousands of dollars. The head of HR begin reimbursed for freight costs. What is the head of HR ordering, presumably for district business, that she has to pay the freight cost personally and then be reimbursed? These are the kinds of things that are going on under Dr. Williams’ watch. And this just scratches the surface! And don’t forget the two failed referendum.

So, should Freeman (there is no “d” in his name, Kilroy) be under review? ABSOLUTELY! The board needs to take a long, hard look at how he has run the district for the last three years. And not only him, but his chief staff members. There is shady business afoot in CSD finance and personnel.

Having said all of that, I hope and pray that there are not Markell-influenced members of the board who are trying to help the governor manhandle the future of this district. The last thing we need is this US DOE want-to-be poking his bald head any further into our business. He obviously does not know, nor does he care, about true education in this state. His veto of HB50 sealed his fate, and how he’s in a panic to try to clean up his name, but he needs to find another way to do it. And he needs to keep his ugly mitts off of our children’s future.

Those are some very serious accusations against Freeman Williams and other administrators within the district.  The next couple weeks should be VERY interesting in Christina.  After failing to pass two referendums, declining enrollment due to parents choicing out of district, and the whole redistricting effort in Wilmington to get City of Wilmington schools out of Christina, this district has some large battles ahead.  Is there dissension on the board?  It appears so, and how it shakes out will be anyone’s guess.  Does Governor Markell have a hand in this?  This I do not know at all and I’m kind of doubting he would tell me if I asked him!

In terms of the legality of the whole agenda issue, the question looms based on the recent Attorney General opinion on Appoquinimink’s school board discussing their Superintendent Matt Burrows’ contract in executive session.  Should Freeman Williams’ “accountability” hearing be a matter of private or public session.  Between here and Kilroy’s, comments are swinging more towards executive session, but the issue of legality should be resolved prior to this meeting, not after.

Christina School District Superintendent Freeman Williams is about to get tarred and feathered by members of his school board

If this is accurate, Markell is nothing more than a thug. He runs government as if it were the mob. He is a bully, pure and simple. I’ve heard from many how he runs things like he is a dictator, and we are seeing more and more of this lately, especially when it comes to his baby, education. His veto of House Bill 50 will be his Achilles heel though. This made the entire state see him for what he really is. His legacy will go down in flames, along with the rest of the politicians and reformers who purport to be the “saviors” of education. They are all greedy bastards, and I can’t wait till they are prosecuted for their crimes.

Election 2016: Delaware State Reps & Senators Who Will Have To Run Again

Election Day 2016.  The day politics can change in a heartbeat or remain the status quo.  For the past seven years, we’ve had a Democrat trifecta in Delaware.  The Dems rule the Governor seat and the majority of the House and Senate seats.  For the past twenty-three years, the Dems have ruled the Governor and Senate seats.  Many talk about a “blue Delaware”, but the House was ruled by the Republicans for a long time prior to 2008.

All 41 of the House seats are up for re-election next year.  11 out of 21 Senate seats are up as well. The big issues in 2016 are going to be the economy, the budget and education.  The following Delaware Senators will have to start campaigning soon if they decide to run for another four years:

Harris McDowell, Democrat, 1st District

Catherine Cloutier, Republican, 5th District

Patricia Blevins, Democrat, 7th District

David Sokola, Democrat, 8th District

Karen Peterson, Democrat, 9th District

Nicole Poore, Democrat, 12th District

David McBride, Democrat, 13th District

Bruce Ennis, Democrat, 14th District

Dave Lawson, Republican, 15th District

Brian Pettyjohn, Republican, 19th District

Gerald Hocker, Republican, 20th District

Out of these Senators, all voted yes for House Bill 50, with the exception of McDowell and Sokola.  For the final vote in the House, all voted yes except for the following: Jaques, Dukes, Gray, Heffernan, and Q. Johnson.  Not voting were Bolden and the soon-to-be-stepping down Barbieri.  It remains to be seen who will take over in the 18th District Barbieri represents.

Remember these NO and not voting members of our General Assembly.  They may get one more chance to shine on this issue with the House Bill 50 Veto Override.  Rep. Schwartzkopf has already said no to this, so I will definitely be making a big issue of that in the next year and four months.  Sorry Pete, you stuck it to parents by siding with Markell.  No sympathy!

This will be a huge election, statewide and nationally.  We will have a new President and a new Governor.  You only get to vote once, so make your voice count!

Corporate Ed Reform “EducationNext” Releases Skewed Opt-Out Survey Results

Paul Peterson and Martin West with EducationNext released a blog post today based on a survey showing 67% of the public want federal testing requirements for students and oppose opt-out.  This is from a survey sent to 700 teachers and 3,300 members of the public.  You know what, I can send out a survey and it means nothing without knowing who your sample groups are.  I know if I put a survey up on my blog that it is going to skew towards my target audience: concerned parents and disgruntled teachers.  I would never base public policy off those numbers.

But EducationNext is led by folks like Michael Petrilli with the Thomas Fordham Institute, a long-time supporter of charter schools and high-stakes testing, so I shouldn’t be surprised.  He is also a fellow at the Hoover Institution, who is the publisher of the EducationNext blog.  So I challenge Peterson, West and Petrilli to show who this survey was sent to.

We found little public sympathy for the “opt-out” point of view.  Only 25% of the public like the idea, while 59% oppose it, the remainder taking a neutral position.  Among parents themselves, just 32% favored the opt-out approach, while 52% opposed it.  Fifty-seven percent of the teachers also reacted negatively to the idea, with only 32% lending it support.  Clearly, the public favors the Senate education bill’s approach to this issue over that of the bill that passed the House.

Clearly is a strong word, and I would want a much larger sample size to base your ideological arguments off of.  Because I really don’t believe 57% of teachers are opposed to opt-out, and aside from the ones coerced into these reformer agenda think tanks, most favor it.

Of these 700 teachers, how many were sent to local district teachers?  Since they represent the largest group of teachers, I would assume at least 75% of the surveys went to them.  But if it was sent to mostly charter school and Teach For America teachers, of course the data would lend support towards exactly what EducationNext, the Thomas Fordham Institute and the Hoover Foundation represent.  Which is the privatization of public schools and the destruction of teachers unions.  As for the 3,300 “adult members of the public”, how many are parents of traditional school district children? How many are charter school parents?  What is the statistical age representation of this survey?  Failure to release that kind of information does not lend credibility to your arguments.

This is the biggest problem in education these days, organizations like yours coming up with these reports and surveys and using the flawed data to mold legislators into your puppets to pass laws off your agendas.  The lines between public policy and lobbyists have become so convoluted that the bias towards corporate money in education has become the norm.  Enough already.  Why does anyone give Petrilli the time of day anymore?

Senator Lawson Gives The Knockout Punch To Markell and the “We Know Best” Bunch!

Not sure how I missed this one, but on the day of the Delaware Governor Markell veto of the parent opt-out bill, House Bill 50, the Delaware State News wrote an article with awesome quotes by Senator Dave Lawson where he said the following:

“This action by Gov. Markell proves, without a doubt, that he and the ‘We know best’ bunch have NO regard for what parents and the legislature approve.

“It is sad that the Governor decided to veto a piece of legislation supporting parents’ rights,” he added.
Gov. Markell had opposed the bill since the beginning, but the measure passed the House by a 31-vote and the Senate by 15-6 vote.

As one of the co-sponsors of the bill, alongside State Rep. John Kowalko, Lawson has stood of for parents rights and has been a strong parent advocate during this whole process of opting out.  During a press conference in early April, he referred to opt-out as a “God-given right for parents” and I couldn’t agree more.  In the past year, Lawson picked up the education baton and ran with it.  He served on the IEP Task Force which led to the passage of Senate Bill 33 to give parents more rights during the IEP process.  As well, he is the chair of the taskforce for the blind which came about from hard-hitting public comments during the IEP Task Force.

State Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf Will Not Vote For HB50 Veto Override, Cites SJR #2 As Reason

In an article today by Melissa Steele in the Cape Gazette, Delaware Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf emphatically said no to any type of veto override for House Bill 50.

On the House side, Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, said he will not support an override attempt. He voted yes for the bill in June, but he said he would call no special session to override the veto, and he will vote no for the override if it comes up after the legislative session resumes in January.

How does that song by Cyndie Lauper go, “I’ll see your true colors, shining through…”.  It sounds like he swallowed the poison pill that is Senate Joint Resolution #2 as well.  This is the statewide assessment inventory resolution that was always meant to counter House Bill 50.  Schwartkopf even said so in the article:

Schwartzkopf said based on the joint resolution, a task force is being established, and a lot of concerns of over testing may be resolved by its recommendation.

“Let’s give the task force a chance to look at this,” he said.

For those who may not recall, I was livid when SJR #2 was introduced, and even beforehand.  Once Markell announced his “overtesting” initiative, I knew this would be his huge attack against parent opt-out.  I even called allies out in their support of SJR #2, because I knew what it was meant to do.  And here we are, with a veto of an opt-out bill and a push for SJR #2.  If ANYONE thinks Smarter Balanced will be a major discussion point in the assessment inventory, in terms of eliminating that test, they are going to be fooled.  The talk will last for five minutes until someone says “We can’t get rid of it, it’s a federal requirement.”

Perhaps the day has come where Schwartzkopf shouldn’t be able to run the show anymore on the House side in Dover.  Maybe the House Bill 50 veto isn’t the only thing that needs to change down  there.

Meanwhile, Delaware State Senator Ernie Lopez is very much in favor of overriding the veto.

“Smarter Balanced has been the culmination and been on the receiving end of frustration on all levels,” he said. “All of us are disappointed in the governor’s response.”

Now that is a legislator quote I can agree with!  Once and for all we will see which legislators side with parents and which side with Markell in any veto override attempt in January.  And yes, as Senator Bryan Townsend said during the final senate vote on House Bill 50, legislators are being tested with this vote.  And with 11 out of 21 senate seats and all 41 of the House Representative seats open for re-election in November 2016, you better believe it!  Parents are watching what our legislators do like never before.

Delaware Atty General Office Invalidated Appoquinimink Superintendent Contract Due To FOIA Violations

Thanks to “Armpit” for sending this one to me!  Apparently, Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn’s office received a petition from a concerned citizen in the Appoquinimink School District due to an open meeting violation concerning their school board.  Superintendent Matthew Burrows contract was invalidated due to the FOIA violations!  You can read the legal opinion here but I will give the highlights:

We find that Executive Session and Public Meeting Agendas for the June 2014 Board Meeting violated FOIA and affected substantial public rights.  In a similar case, we determined that the school board violated substantial public rights “by deciding who to hire as the new [District] superintendent outside of public view.”  Del. Op. Att’y Gen. 02-IB17, 2002 WL 31031224, at *8 (Aug. 6, 2002).  In that case, the “specific rights at issue . . . were the rights of students, parents, teachers, and other concerned citizens in the District to be involved in the selection of a new superintendent.”  Id.  However, we declined to invalidate the school board’s approval of the new superintendent for equitable reasons.   See id., at *10.

Similarly, although we find that the Board’s June 2014 Meeting and related agendas violated FOIA, we decline to determine that the approval of the Contract is invalid for violation of the open meeting law.7  The record indicates that after Mr. Weller raised his concerns about the adequacy of the Board’s June 2014 meeting agendas, the Board placed the matter on its November agenda, engaged in a public discussion about the Contract at the November meeting, and voted on the Contract at the November meeting. The Board also completed FOIA training in a public session in November 2014 in order to gain additional understanding of FOIA’s public meetings laws.  Therefore, we find that the Board has already taken action to cure the June 2014 violations of the open meetings laws.  Under the circumstances, no additional remediation is required.

Even though the matter was fixed by the board, it still happened.  What would have happened if Mr. Weller never brought it to the Attorney General’s attention?  If I ever meet Mr. Weller I would like to shake his hand for his bravery and determination in this matter.  School boards are elected officials, and they need to follow the letter of the law!

Rep. Kowalko & Senator Lawson Slam Markell’s HB50 Veto With Style & Facts!!

With permission from State Rep. John Kowalko to publish his letter that appeared on Delawareonline earlier this afternoon!

Markell Veto…..Opt-out or Cop-out

                It has been one week since we received Governor Markell’s message that he had vetoed House Bill 50 (the parental opt out rights bill). We feel it is our obligation, as responsible lawmakers, to thoroughly review and consider all aspects of Governor Markell’s stated reasons for vetoing this legislation.
Unfortunately, we found little if any reasonable logic to the Governor’s action and explanation. Quite frankly, there were a few questionable inaccuracies in the statement that lead us to believe that Governor Markell’s action was premeditated with little thought given to the overwhelming support from parents, teachers, administrators, school boards, and the General Assembly for HB 50.
We made every effort to grasp the argument that the administration was trying to make, but the indefatigable truth remains that he had no logical reason to reject the wishes of the parents and lawmakers and instead chose to diminish the seriousness of the “opt-out” movement with a series of unsubstantiated arguments.
The third paragraph of the Governor’s veto statement suggests that educators and school leaders opposed the legislation when, in fact, the reality is that HB 50 and parental opt-out rights are supported, unequivocally, by the DSEA and its membership and the Delaware PTA and its membership. There were also three of the largest and poorest school districts in the state–Christina, Red Clay, and Capital–who voted for and passed resolutions supporting parental opt-out rights. Also noticeable in its deliberate exaggeration is the Governor’s contention that the civil rights “community” opposed the legislation, while refusing to acknowledge that a larger portion of that community did not oppose “opt-out” legislation. Particularly offensive was the language in the fourth paragraph that stated, “if struggling students are disproportionately encouraged to opt out as has happened elsewhere, we may not be able to identify the children who need intervention to be successful.” Unfortunately, this type of hyperbole paints a false picture of the situation in many ways. There is no proof available or offered that a “disproportionate encouragement “of students to opt out has “happened elsewhere.” There is no evidence whatsoever that the test that will be used in Delaware does or will identify children who need intervention. Most importantly, HB 50 does not and cannot be used to encourage or discourage participation in the assessment test.
The fifth paragraph posits the unsubstantiated and unproven assertion that “students with disabilities and students of color have benefitted the most from the adoption of statewide testing requirements.” There is no valid data that would suggest this to be an accurate statement of fact. Out of respect for the office of the Governor, we will temper our comments regarding the deliberate misrepresentation of reality in that sentence and its intention to instill fear and doubt in the minority and disabled communities.
Governor Markell, in his veto statement, also suggests that HB 50 was a construct of those who feel that children are over-tested. This completely misses the point that the legislation is exclusively about parental and child rights to not participate in this specific, unproven, time-consuming distraction called the “Smarter Balanced Assessment,” which hinders their ability to learn expediently and prevents appropriately identifying their shortcomings and needs to succeed. The fact that this administration chooses to engage in the politics of distraction that could result in useful and proven tests being shunned to the detriment of students and educators speaks volumes against the Governor’s decision to veto HB 50.
In conclusion, after having thoroughly examined the Governor’s stated positions on parental opt-out rights and because of the enormous public support expressed for HB 50 by educators (DSEA), parents and families (PTA), school administrators (Capital, Christina, and Red Clay resolutions), and the huge majority of General Assembly members who supported HB 50, we have decided that it is our sworn responsibility to our constituents and all Delawareans to bring HB 50 to the floor in January for a veto override vote.

Representative John Kowalko 25th District, 14 Kells Ave. Newark De. 19711    302 547 9351
Senator Dave Lawson 15th Senatorial District  302 270 1038

DOE Scoop of the Day

I just heard from a reliable source that someone at the DOE won’t be there for a while.  Apparently, a new project has been added to this person’s schedule which will prevent them from being able to perform their duties for a while.  This project is so big, it went into overdrive today.  To find out what it is, scroll down.

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Baby Schwinn is coming into the world!  Penny Schwinn went into labor today!  Who will fill in for her when she is out on maternity leave?